April is almost here, but it doesn’t feel like spring. The part that may be missing is the anticipation of a new beginning and a fresh start.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the ending from the beginning. There is too much in the way to see anything clearly from where we are right now, but we are in the same boat all over the world.

The current health pandemic didn’t stop anglers from covering many of the lakes this past weekend looking for some fresh air to breathe and some fresh fish to eat.

There was a constant flow of wheeled fish houses heading north from Deer River and Bemidji to get one more weekend on Lake of the Woods.

Most of the good perch lakes were also busy with anglers, with a high percentage of the vehicles full of people and having out-of-state license plates. So much for sheltering in place.

Tourism is a big deal in Minnesota and is the life blood of many communities like Bemidji and most of the other cities in Northern Minnesota.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine busy lakes with full resorts and the local summer camps full of children from all over the country with the current situation still growing exponentially.

There is always hope, but the amount of uncertainty is much greater than hope right now. Most people are trying to take a wait and see attitude, but simple math and general science don’t support many of the more optimistic outlooks for summer 2020 and possibly well beyond.

This could just be the first act, with the second act starting next fall when the normal “cold and flu” season returns. We are off the clock right now and the future is still being shaped around us.

With most people staying in their homes, it has been difficult for many people that live alone to still feel connected to the outside world. When the movies and TV shows have been watched, the sports have been shut down and the news is all there is left to watch, it’s much harder to get fired up about the arrival of spring.

There is still a little bit of winter left to enjoy, before the more serious spring meltdown begins. The extended forecast is predicting high temperatures in the 40s and lows in the 20s this week, which should cause more melting, but still some re-freezing of the lake accesses at night.

The time for vehicle traffic on the lakes will be over soon, with anglers relying on ATV’s, snowmobiles and eventually walking out on the lakes before the ice conditions deteriorate enough to end the ice fishing season.

Most perch have been coming off the shallow flats, with the best areas closer to the breakline in 7 to 9 feet of water.

The schools of perch will mill around the flats chasing the schools of minnows and looking for other food. When predators move through the area, the schools of perch usually scatter, so the bite is often sporadic, with the perch biting in flurries.

Many perch anglers buy a tub of wax worms, so they don’t have to keep going into the bait stores for more bait. A couple of wax worms on a small jigging spoon or a small jig is usually plenty of bait to catch perch.

Eelpout have started to spawn and have been moving on top of structures after dark. Direct access to deep water is usually the key feature of most good spots for eelpout.

Eelpout are very vulnerable to overharvest. They live in one general area for most of their lives. They live in some of the deepest water in the lakes during the summer and will continue to get more active as the winter progresses until they spawn under the ice in March.

Crappies are moving out of the basin and holding along the shoreline breaks. Sunfish are in any old standing weeds with the right mixture of food and cover.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2020 can be booked by calling or texting (218) 760-7751 or by email at panelsonbemidji@gmail.com.